Dave Richards for April 17th…………….
--State Senator Roger Picard visited our morning radio show yesterday. His visit prompted me to think about a number of things I’d like to comment on here.
First, I’ll set up the situation. We asked Roger about the new “truck” tolls on the highways, the budget process, “scooping” (when the legislature raids the private accounts of departments for money) and new legislation he has sponsored at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin. It’s always fun to talk to Roger because he’s a man who keeps his passions within due bounds and agrees with you that things could be better in the state house.
When asked why things are so messed up in the legislature, Roger explained, as he has before, that there’s a simple solution for every problem everywhere EXCEPT in the legislature. Someone can have all the common sense in the world and it is of no use there. In fact, there is no way to survive in the General Assembly except by politics and compromise. But somehow Roger manages to survive, keep his temper, and plod along in slow but determined steps.
I don’t think I would survive there. I think I would have become frustrated years ago and stepped down. But Roger told me yesterday he will run for re-election this November. He’s a better man than I.
I teased him about the supposed “truck tolling”, telling him it was just a ruse. I told him it is now conventional knowledge that once the first toll is taken, the truckers will take the state to court and the state will lose. They will end up under court order to either abolish the tolls or to collect tolls from every vehicle, not just trucks. Since they have already budgeted the toll money, abolishing the tolls will not happen. I said it with some cynicism, but Roger didn’t join me in that attitude. He told me that if what I said comes to pass, it would be the start of big changes in Providence. He didn’t say what changes, but I got the impression that what he wasn’t saying was that all heck would break loose.
Roger explained that the “scooping” phenomena, while it seems so wrong to so many people, is not as evil and money-grabbing as it appears. He said that many state departments and agencies have ‘squirreled-away’ huge sums of money in special accounts. These special account monies are not used for the department’s mission, but for others things like new cars for staff, etc. Then they come to the legislature for more money, crying poverty and that they don’t have enough of it to complete their mission. These are the accounts the legislature is “scooping” to balance their budget.
Well, when you put it THAT way, it doesn’t seem so evil, does it? It actually sounds more like somebody’s trying to save the taxpayers some money rather than drunken sailors robbing people for more booze, doesn’t it?
“The budget process is all about priorities”, Senator Picard said. Explaining “that’s where the real work happens.” Everyone has their hand out. Some are sincere and honest and will use their appropriations wisely to do the most good for the most people. Some are playing the game. Those are the people who will either ask for more than they need or less than they need knowing they can do better with an adjustment later in the year. You have to figure out which ones are not honest and by how much. It’s not easy.
Regarding the legislation Roger introduced on behalf of the Attorney General, it addresses a problem where health insurance companies treat children differently than adults and will legislate a fairness that will save a lot of money for certain Rhode Island families. Although I personally dislike when the state government compels insurance companies to cover certain medicines or procedures because it raises the cost of health insurance for everyone, I can see the validity of this request by the A.G. because it will serve to protect families. Anyone who has raised or is raising a family knows how precarious finances can be during those years. One sickness or injury of a child can send the entire family into a desperate state. It makes sense to me.
--That’s what I think. What do you think? Comments to: email@example.com or postal mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332.
Thanks for reading.